Friday, January 11, 2013

Operation Coffee Shop

I swore that 2013 would be the year of "Enjoying the Decline."  The timing was pretty good, because my Wyoming expedition, a crazy 3 month work schedule covering security gigs for a friend of mine, and the completion of writing the book "Enjoy the Decline" all came to a close in early January.  Now with adequate funds, hopefully an increase in future sales, and a supportive and much appreciated readership, I can for the first time in my life "enjoy" life by not working and taking a full year off.

Just one problem.

You ever try to just "not work?"

Especially after 20 years of non-stop work, and go go go, and project after project?  It's impossible to turn off.

This is a problem "to have" admittedly, but it doesn't make it any easier to resolve the problem.  I've tried playing World of War Craft and have succeeded in leveling up my character.  I force myself to sleep in till 8AM. I run, I work out, anything to keep the mind focused, but in the end, everyday, my "chores" are done by noon and there's still 10 hours to kill in the day.

Thus I decided to do something I would normally have never considered - explore the "coffee shop culture" by visiting a new coffee shop in Minneapolis everyday.

This is not out of boredom, but rather curiosity and a bit of recouping youth (it's also an exercise in discipline to see if I can force myself to visit a culture I stick out like a sore thumb in)  Without going into a long geographic lesson, there is an area to the south west of downtown Minneapolis that houses the hip "uptown" area and to the south of that is a long swath of a neighborhood with old homes.  This area of MInneapolis is covered in a canopy of trees and pockmarked by small little shops and stores, notably restaurants, coffee stores, record shops, and bicycle repair joints.  While I've driven through it, I've never participated in it by walking into these stores, patronizing them, or seeing what the culture is like.  In my college days this is where are the "kids" hung out or "went to get coffee."  I was too busy with school and work to ever "attend."  But now I have the time and ability to observe this culture.  Not that these reconnaissance missions will be my best writing, but just a break from economics and lighter fare.

I've visited two coffee shops and already I can tell you every stereotype and prejudice you've ever had about "liberal coffee-goers" is correct.  My first coffee shop was a run down hovel.  The art up on the wall was crap.  The male patrons were weak and effeminate.  All of them looked like Seth Rogen with their beards.  Some were congregating in another room talking about "setting up a commune" or something akin to that.  The barista's were two young ladies, not a molecule of make up on them, and they were dressed in the color of coffee - drab brown.  The music was nothing I've ever heard and it was horrible.  It wasn't because it was "new age," I don't mind that.  It was just poor musicians playing bad music.  I was the only one with a Microsoft operating system.

The second coffee shop I'm in right now.  This is a bit more cozy, it was obviously built on the side of an old brick building as an afterthought, so it is long and narrow, and the wall is adorned with decent art, but also old license plates from different states.  The music is better, and the clientele is a bit more interesting.  I am still the only person here with a Microsoft operating system, but there are two couples with their quiet and well-behaved children.  The men are again effeminate.  And there is a middle aged woman taking notes on a paper notepad. I don't know what she is doing, but I surmise it isn't calculus or an engineering project.  It would be hypocritical of me to mock her (or anybody else here) if they fashion themselves "writers," but that's what I'm going to do anyway.  I will give this middle aged woman credit though, she is dressed and done up better than all of her 20 something female counterparts.  There is also a hipster guy looking shopping for skinny jeans on his Apple computer.  I'm not making it up because Die Hipster took a picture of such a phenomenon.  It just dawned on me I'm probably the first person to ever carry a gun into this store...matter of fact, that could be said about all the coffee stores I presume

The staff is actually a lot better, not that the first coffee store had poor service, they're just a bit classier.  Two younger fellas, but they are dressed sharply (one with a bow tie) and seem a bit more personable.  I didn't interview them about their lives however.

And just like that it's 11AM.  An hour left to do grocery shopping and then, again, I will be done with my chores around noon.


taterearl said...

It's basically the same thing in St. Paul...but I like going to coffee shops to relax, unwind, and read. After all I just purchased one you might be familiar with. It is interesting to observe the clientele and being the only person resembling a man in there.

BC Monkey said...

But how was the coffee?

Phil Galt said...

God, I envy you. Last time, I had that level of free time, I built a large (5ft tall) trebuchet out of scrap wood my house's previous owners had abandoned.....

Anonymous said...

Why do people go to coffee shops and tie up a table reading or computing and largely ignoring those around them?

Are they simply posing as hipsters for their own vanity or fantasy reasons, or is it that they can't afford their own wifi. Otherwise, wouldn't it be easier to concentrate on the read or the computing in a quiet home office or whatever room is vacant at home?

I should add that ... being a bit of a red neck target shooting retired saxophone player/business owner now approaching year 70 with 1950s values, I do not qualify as an effeminate male ... I drink straight coffee and .... ... I switched from the quirky Microsoft system to Apple a couple of years ago and I am ever so happy I did. it is a much superior and mostly trouble free system.

I refuse to allow the idiots of our world prevent me from using quality products.

Breaker Morant said...

I am a farmer in western MN, who also had a part-time job based in Uptown. I went there to finish up projects and so forth.

Your comment about carrying a gun in the coffee shop reminded me that I am probably the only person to ever wear Red Wing work boots that had been in a hog barn into Lucias.

tcarlyleod said...

I loved your book (even if I did ignore your advice and tried to read it in one sitting). I only stopped to clean my .22 once.

But in all seriousness, if you're going to have a year off, maybe you should pursue another project?

"Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another."
--Anatole France

Since you're into hiking, what about coming out to Kommiefornia and hiking the John Muir Trail? You could spend 2-4 weeks up in some amazing untouched and remote wilderness that few get to see. (maybe climb a few mountains?)
Plus, it'd be something "big" to focus your training on without necessarily being a "work project."

Aaron said...

In your extra 10 hours each day you should learn useful skills - how to make biodiesel, how to load your own ammo, and how to make your own booze.

A year is plenty of time to get proficient at these (soon-to-be) vital skills.

Anonymous said...

You're Alliance, aren't you Captain?

Don't Work In Nashville said...

DieHipster announced he's folding as of about Jan 5th. Sad day.

As for doing something besides work, try lifting. Compound BB routine, not some pussy workout.

LordSomber said...

Damn, you're describing the very coffee joint I'm at. Bad art, effeminate men, blah chicks. But I'm in a university town so I assume (and pray) this isn't the norm.

And I'm the guy who sent DH that pic!

dienw said...

-Go buy some tubes of paint, brushes,some canvas, and an easel and start painting.
-If you are near your alma mater, go browse the college/university library in sections you into which you never ventured as a student.

Anonymous said...

But those Apple users are original unique people, just like every other independent-minded artistic people filling the coffers of that colossal mega-corporation.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Ahh the life of a Flaneur & Boulvardier.

Seriously, the fastest way to die is to do nothing get a serious hobby and make yourself useful.

*Serious hobbies are those hobbies that once you are half-arsed good at you might make some money at it you cared to.

e.g. Welding, guitar playing (learn an instrument, write funny songs about english majors), distilling, making sausages, furniture making, whatever...

Phillyastro said...

I'll buy your new book if the next time you run into a coffee shop if you tell the manager, "Just to let you know, I have a gun and am ready to protect your business from any delinquent ne'er do wells."

Captain Capitalism said...


Coffee was fair.

Anon 1009,

No, never. Brown Coat forever.

Paul E. Zimmerman said...

Cappy - screw WoW. Try Entropia Universe. It has a real cash economy, so playing it might actually provide a return some day.

beta_plus said...

I agree with the survivalist types here. If you want to write a sequel to Worthless, you could go learn trade skills like plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, and auto repair and write a guide on how to learn those things efficiently with a good likelihood of getting jobs.

One problem that I've noticed with learning a trade is trying to find good training that isn't a scam.

Unknown said...

when you are ready to stop playing a 10 year old's game load EVE Online, we are waiting for you. in game name 'pontin'

Bill said...

I was completely unaware of Firefly; never seen an episode. Looking on the Web, I learn that I would loathe the Alliance. Besides, I already own a brown coat, an Aussie heavy waterproofed leather thing.

Bill said...

@ ofay cat: I started on an IBM PC1 and graduated to a 386SX; In fact I became the self-appointed IT thingee for the directorate to keep the Neanderthal gunners from wrecking it.
I got over all that and bought a Mac as a retirement gift to myself. It's simply the best hardware and OS going; both are very robust. My five year old laptop has required one motherboard replacement, and Apple was right on it with their excellent JD Power Award-winning warranty system.

Pulp Herb said...

@Ofay Cat
Are they simply posing as hipsters for their own vanity or fantasy reasons, or is it that they can't afford their own wifi. Otherwise, wouldn't it be easier to concentrate on the read or the computing in a quiet home office or whatever room is vacant at home?'s very easy to become isolated and have no human contact. Even if you're not interacting with people just sitting there studying or reading quiets the despair of isolation sometimes.

@Ofay Cat and Bill
When are either of you going to get serious and run some actual Unix directory. Real men don't paint their rifles pink or pour pretty sauce over a real OS (which, admittedly MacOS has underneath).

Or if you want to get real hardcore join the FreeVMS crowd :)